Supreme court rules on state estate taxes

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In a precedent-setting decision, the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that taxpayers exempt from federal estate taxes should also be exempt from similar state taxes.

The decision Tuesday overturned a ruling of an administrative hearing commission in a single case. But it will force the Department of Revenue to change the way it handles estate taxes, said agency director Carol Fischer.

"It will result in a loss of money to the state. However, we don't think it will be substantial," Fischer said. "The circumstance where you have no federal tax is somewhat unusual."

A 1980 Missouri tax law links the state estate tax to the federal one. The state, in essence, gets to receive a portion of the money that otherwise would go to the federal government, the court said in its ruling.

Federal exemption

The decision focused on the case of Mary S. Riethmann, a beneficiary of her father, who died in 1995. Riethmann inherited nearly $22.5 million and the benefits of a $1 million trust.

Her father's estate paid federal and state taxes, including about $8 million to the Missouri government.

Riethmann died less than two years later, leaving an estate that consisted primarily of what she inherited from her father. Because of the close timing of the deaths, the daughter's trust received a federal tax credit for all the property she had inherited, and the Internal Revenue Service concluded that the trust owed no federal estate taxes.

The state Department of Revenue, however, sought nearly $3.4 million in taxes and interest and $157,500 in penalties.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: